Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My husband hurt his foot so his brain doesn't work...

Since Lloyd ruptured his Achille's Tendon in October, he can't walk. Apparently he also can't think, because we ended up with 100 pounds less than a ton of coal in a ¾ ton trailer bed with a rusted rim and no spare. Scratch that. We had a spare. At home in Oak City. Not at the side of the road in Scipio, 45 minutes away. Since we recently purchased a 2008 Ford Explorer for just this reason, and since our son had attached the trailer and lights, Lloyd was not his usual Type A self preparing for this particular adventure. His efforts included checking the lights and finding out we had brake lights, but no signal lights. That is all.

I had made arrangements (I've been taking care of a lot of things that have little to do with ankles while Lloyd limps along in his boot.) They have everything to do with brains, and strength, and ambition, and...well, little it matters what with us now stranded next to our brimming trailer, our bent in half rim with one good tire and no spare.

There are, in fact, several places to get tires repaired and even purchase tires in Scipio, unless it's a rare, odd, 5-lug rim you are trying to find. Then, it's sit-and-fret city. That's where we sat. No solutions in sight.

We did see a well-worn little sedan pull up behind us and out walked a scruffy old guy in a flannel jacket, leaning heavily on a cane. He had several weeks worth of beard stubble and a few less teeth than he once had. He offered his help and after looking things over, suggested he drive Lloyd over the freeway overpass and ask the tire shop how they might help. Did I mention he had a massive pit bull in the passenger seat that Lloyd thought was a black lab? Apparently torn tendons can affect eyesight.

They left me there in the truck, greeting the dozen or so other smiling folks who stopped and offered help. One man stopped, and before he even said a word, I said “Our rim's bent and we don't have a spare.” I swear he grinned when he answered, “I can see that.” I can't fault him for that. He has two good ankles and would definitely have brought a spare. And a star wrench. Since new cars don't come with that, and the one we have is nestling comfortably at home with the spare tire and rim.

One mechanic loaned us a star wrench and a rim and tire to try. The tire shop also sent back a tire and rim and some hope. But nothing fit. So the man, whose name was Brad, said he was going to “tell the wife” where he was, and call his son who had a better jack than our tiny little jack-that-came-with-the-car. He was gone for a while, and Lloyd and I wondered if he just left to escape our hopeless situation. He did not. He came back with a son, a wife, another dog and a couple more tires. The trailer was now jacked up. (Jacked up, now that's funny!) and the tire, miraculously, was fine. The rim was curled over itself, having rusted out from the inside. None of the tires/rims they brought fit, although one came within a hair of it. A hair is not enough in tire world.

But that family, that ragtag band of angels, ended up staying with us for over 4 hours coming and going with an assortment of rims and tires from friends' yards and vehicles. When we finally had to give in and call a good friend to drive our spare from Oak City, they insisted on staying with us and telling funny stories to cheer us up. They would not take a dime in payment. Would. Not.

They were the salt of the earth, the meek and the humble that will inherit the earth with those good souls of theirs. I can only hope to be so Christ-like.

Finally, we were on the road. Things were going along okay. I, who had never once pulled a trailer before, drove up Scipio Canyon toward Holden. Forty miles an hour in an 80-mph speed zone. Our friend followed us, keeping an eye on the trailer. As I pulled off the exit I saw what I thought was coal bouncing out of our trailer. Just then, our friend called my cell to warn us that our tire was now throwing rubber. It was worn down to the cord.

Great. So now we had one good tire and rim on the trailer. One rim and one bad tire on the trailer. And one good tire and no rim in the car.

Do you know how tiny Holden is? While we worried ourselves sick, I suddenly remembered that a friend had opened up the little convenience store in Holden. I happened to meet this friend during an entirely different challenge and felt rescued. I said a prayer and called her. Yes, they repair tires. We limped the couple of miles to their garage, and soon had a repaired tire on the trailer again. And a tire-less rim.

Lloyd says it was a lesson hard-learned. I think it was many lessons, not the least of which was about the holiness of the “least of these”. I've met many in my day. They are angels.

Gary. Brad. Mrs. Brad. When the rubber meets the road, I want you along for the ride!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Be brave. Whatever happens, be very brave.

I wish I remembered the quote exactly. I read it in the hallway of the Titanic Exhibit in Las Vegas. It was at eye level just before I entered the room where I would find out if I (or the passenger I was assigned to be during the tour) survived or perished. The plaque explained that someone's husband told his wife, just as he was sending her to a lifeboat unaccompanied by him: Be brave. Whatever happens, be very brave.

I'm sure it's not the exact wording or situation, and the sentiment would be so much more meaningful if I could remember the full story of the man credited with the quote. But, at the time, I was overcome by the spirit of courage and bravery, crying at the harsh beauty of that moment.Though it's not an exact quote, the meaning is still very much what I wanted to convey in this post.

I have written before on this blog about the ravages and glories of trying to help family members through addictions (of any kind). In fact, I'm still working on a book that tells my family's story from my own perspective. It's a story that, in embryo, was all about fear, and worry, and feeling like a failure, but blossomed into full-grown, battle-worthy, courageous and mighty being(the story, not me) who found not only a way through, but thrived in the midst of the war...and addiction is a war. My story has no end, because...well, there is always struggle, but the things I learned this past year were healing, and calming and took the raw and broken parts of me and molded them into a kind of courage I hadn't believed possible.

There were many tiny, daily acts of courage, and also Goliath-sized ones like telling one son to leave our home, and another he couldn't return. In my mind, it was Joan of Arc level bravery. (Not everyone agreed with me.) It gutted me for a while, and then broke me open to receive what would eventually start to heal not only me, but the people I loved, and was trying to help.

I told you all of that to tell you this: the power of a brief, but daunting act of courage can end in a beautiful pathway to healing for hopefully many to follow. I don't mean at all to be boastful, for it was not courage I created, but courage I accepted as a gift from God. And I didn't follow promptings but more accurately was compelled forward by powers higher than my own who had a mission they wanted to accomlish.

Well into the year that nearly did me in, I found some helpful direction from a couple of different counselors. My acting on their advice started to create change in both myself and my struggling loved ones. And to find support in places I hadn't known existed. I felt a powerful need to share it. More accurately a formidable inability NOT to share it.

But I was scared, and it didn't feel like it was my place to do what the Spirit was telling me to do, which was to meet with my church leaders and share what I'd learned. It felt a little like I was telling them what to do, or maybe pointing out what they weren't doing, which was totally not my intent. In fact, my intent, and my nature, is mostly always not to step out of my comfort zone at all. But the Spirit had other plans, and was vigilant in its promptings. It took some time for me to gather up the skirts of my bravery and ford my own personal Sweetwater crossing to their doors.

I had researched, fasted, prayed, experimented, journaled and attended meetings. When I finally felt like I had a little knowledge under my belt, I called for an appointment.

I love and respect these men so much and had no reason to be afraid to visit with them, but I was. I felt anything but brave. But I also felt compelled. Through much fasting and prayer, I finally came to a place where I felt like I could just tell my story—what was working for me and my family—and then leave the information, and the outcome, in their hands. It was their stewardship, after all.
They were gracious, interested and grateful while I met with them, and assured me they would look into the things I told them. When I left their office, I felt a sweet peace, but felt no need to follow up...to press them to action. I trusted them, and more importantly I trusted the God who sent me; the God to whom they listened and obeyed. That was several months ago.

Yesterday, I received the news that they were moving forward with things I had shared with them. It's news that is not mine to share yet, but trust me. No. Instead trust the Spirit that moved me, and them, that if you are a family struggling with addictions...help is on the way.

And because it is, you will have stories of your own acts of courage. And all our courage gathered together just might change the world!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Glasses I can't quite see through...

About a month ago I broke my glasses. I thought it wouldn't be too bad because I had a spare pair. Then I remembered that, to save a few bucks two years ago, I had new lenses added to existing frames, so the spare was four years old. Clearly (pardon the pun) not the correct prescription, and definitely not glare protected. Also, the progressive lens is not uniform, so I have to tilt my head to the side to see even close to clearly with both eyes at once, which leaves me with a constant head and neck ache. I still read, but it's harder, and often one-eyed. Insurance won't cover a new pair until January so I'm making do. And if my makeup looks a bit wonky, well...please just understand. Most things are a little blurry all the time.

I know this doesn't seem related, but hold on. I'll tie it all together in the end. I promise! On October 12, 2013, my husband, Lloyd, fell and completely ruptured his right Achilles tendon. In two places. The last month has been a whirlwind of doctors and surgery and driving. So much driving. For example, three trips to Provo in one week (on the heels of the trip back from Logan where the injury happened) in order to complete surgery, then to Sanpete County 8 days later to removes stitches and cast his leg. Four days later we flew out of Salt Lake to Virginia for a week with touring and family activities every day. And now the three trips to Oak City and back per day to accommodate both my, and his, jobs. While doing all that's necessary for Lloyd, duties which remind me of taking care of a large, frustrated toddler, (he can't walk, drive, dress, navigate stairs or shower himself etc. etc.) I live my regularly scheduled hectic life. Now my vision is blurry for different reasons...fatigue, too many headlights coming at me while night driving, and stress. Don't forget stress.

It's especially entertaining when Lloyd and I try to watch a movie or a football game. He can't hear and I can't see. It's a constant game of “Is that the Chiefs or the Utes?” (I'm going by color here folks) To which he says, “Utes. Did he just say the fence is molding?” I respond, “Why would a ref say that? He said offensive holding. Hey, did you change the channel?” Lloyd shakes his head and laughs. “No it's a commercial."

It's a sad, sad thing. And still blurry.

Another thing that's blurry at our house is boundaries. We have rules, people! And what with some of us injured, some canine, some overloaded with chores, and some battling recovery, the clear lines we'd been operating by have become harder to see, and harder to enforce. Everyone is tense and easily frustrated. And things aren't getting done, which isn't the end of the world, but, for someone like me? Impossible to deal with.

As I'm thinking about blurriness this morning, (and how can I not with these glasses?) I watch an old LDS Conference talk that just sharpens all the lines a bit. He's talking about “light and dark”, but I'm hearing “clear and blurred”...and hope.

“I have a cherished painting in my office that is titled Entrance to Enlightenment. It was created by...the Danish artist Johan Benthin, who was the first stake president in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“The painting shows a dark room with an open door from which light is shining. It is interesting to me that the light coming through the door does not illuminate the entire room—only the space immediately in front of the door.

“To me, the darkness and light in this painting are a metaphor for life. It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved.

“But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances, God promises the hope of His light—He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.”
-President Uchtdorf's talk: The Hope of God's Light, April 2013, Ensign

With that thought, I leave the house for work in the early morning pre-dawn. First it's not quite light enough to see, and then I find myself driving through fog. With blurry glasses.

But I can see light on the other side.

So even though my vision will be inadequately corrected until January, and blurred boundaries are too slowly reinforced-- Even though I've left lush, vibrant Autumn in Virginia for my dusty sage brush desert-- I drive through the fog this morning, watching the gorgeous sunrise in my rearview mirror.

My life has often been like glasses I can't see quite see through, but the glimpses of clarity I get every so often are breathtaking!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Shhhh. I'm hiding...

Shhhh. It’s a secret. I am spending an hour, an entire hour, alone. I’m alone in the blessed quiet of locked doors where no other voices spit or sputter or shout. No phones are ringing. No one needs a ride anywhere. Just me and my book. And the quiet.

Please don’t tell on me. I feel guilty as it is. It’s past six o’clock and I could have left for home an hour ago. I’m slowly savoring praline carmel ice cream so sweet it hurts my teeth. The light is soft and not a soul is here.

Okay, I’m eating a praline McFlurry in the lobby of my office.

But with my eyes closed it almost feels like a screened porch somewhere in glorious southern autumn near a large pond and rolling hills. Almost.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my home. And my family. It’s just that there’s been injury and surgery, caregiving and so much driving. There's been travel and packing and unpacking, un-medicated people who need their meds, bills bills bills, and dogs. So many dogs.

Okay, two dogs, but one won’t potty train and the other is shredding garbage can contents as we speak.

I know it sounds crazy, but if you were here…inside my head, you’d totally get it!

I’m going home in a few more minutes. I swear I am. Just gonna finish
my ice cream and read a chapter in my novel and then I’ll *sigh* head out.

Losing Suzy...


I lost a good friend recently. It's heartbreaking, in so many exquisitely beautiful ways, that she's not here on this mortal soil with me (even though I know her laughter fills the holy halls of Heaven).

She was a beautiful woman who loved to dress as the spunky young girl that lived inside her heart. It wasn't unusual to see all 6'-plus feet of her Amazonian self wearing cabbage patch kid overalls and curly black pigtails with bows. She had the best cupid bow smile and a laugh that could crack the code of even the snarliest old goats. I know, because one of them was my husband.

During the time we knew her best, she was part of a group of friends supporting each other through some extreme life difficulties. It was an unusual addiction recovery group where we not only knew each others last names, but we met often socially and became close friends. I have seen her at her drunk-on-mouthwash worst and her shiny Sunday tentative testimony bearing best. I love the whole spectrum of her.

We met weekly for a couple of years and cried with both spiritual inspiration and hearts cracking into pieces for the struggling among us. My own husband, who has left his substance addictions behind, but who at that time struggled with depression and rage, was deeply changed by this group. It was better than the costliest therapy. One time Lloyd had broken his glasses and was raging about how impossible it was going to be to solve. He was at Walmart, looking for medical tape to secure them, and couldn't find it. Instead he found me in the checkout line and loudly vented his frustration to me and the dozen other people in close proximity. In an effort to quiet him, I suggested he walk over to the Vision Center and see if they could fix his glasses. He hollered about how “those morons won't be able to do anything!” and then went over to ask. Ten minutes later they handed the glasses to him fixed. At no charge. He had nothing to say about that.

Later, he shared that story in group, and Suzy reached up waving both hands frantically, calling out “Wait! Wait!....You couldn't find medical tape in Walmart and THEY'RE the morons?” We all burst out laughing and the story was often retold. In that moment, thanks to her, he saw himself in a new way. It sapped the anger from his veins, calmed and healed him, the way that group did over and over again.

She told stories about throwing her cigarettes out the window, vowing to quit, and then driving back to that exact spot to retrieve them later when the craving got too strong. She humbly shared her most shameful secrets in an attempt to overcome them. It inspired me. And the rest of the group too. Her honesty, her openness, her wounded warrior self that fought courageously on this shared battleground.

I watched her slowly gain sobriety with panache and grace. When she moved, I saw her less and less, But I got to watch her marry her best friend (another member of our group) in a gymnasium decorated for the Utah Jazz where they both wore jerseys and we sat on bleachers. Yup, she was that kind of girl.

We have lost several members of that group. Some have died, more have driven deeper into addiction, and a few are in and out of jail and rehab. Many struggle. Few have stayed sober. Suzy got her act together at a rehab we helped set up for her. She worked there later with great success, married and had a son. She was happy, thriving and using her life to pay it forward. I was lucky she was my friend.

I don't know how she died. Not sure I want to know. But I know I love her, and the world is not the same without her. Look out, Heaven! I hope you know what you're getting! (And just thinking about her spunky angel self makes me laugh...)

Part of me wishes I could be there to see it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Where there's smoke, there's grown children...

With cooler weather coming on, I'm excited for the first fire of the year (the kind that heats our house, not the kind that destroyed the canyon). I read this post from my family blog and thought I'd repost it here in anticipation (and maybe also as a warning...LOL)

Last night I was exhausted from a long weekend of writing, church, and cleaning up after 3 adult children who should definitely begin cleaning up after themselves, but that is a whiny story for another day.

Lately I’ve been waking up at least every other hour, sometimes every hour. This allows for little REM sleep but lots of crazy dreams including, but not limited to, all my teeth falling out; and a large house with secret but messy rooms I didn’t know existed, but must clean now.

Anyway. Last night I actually fell asleep about 9:30 and didn’t wake until midnight. I handled the water-related activities required and fell immediately back to sleep (another miracle!). The next time I woke, it was 3:00 a.m. and I could smell smoke. Since our home is heated by a wood stove. That is not too unusual, and when a fire is first built it always smells like we are sitting around a campfire.

But it is 3:00 a.m. and who builds a fire at that hour? Also, I looked at the fireplace and it was lit, but it was an ebbing fire rather than a newly roaring one. And things looked blurry. But they often do when I am sans spectacles. So I laid back down, and started coughing. I still smelled smoke and didn’t dare go back to sleep. I rolled out of my down comforter- covered water bed, donned my glasses and went downstairs again to check things out. I flipped on some lights this time. The blurriness was definitely smoke, but I checked the fireplace door and it was snug. I walked down into the freezing basement. No smoke. I walked out on to the porches. No smoke.

Definitely inside. Definitely getting worse. But I could find no source! No candles, no burners left on, no incense burning. I stumbled back to bed. No sleep. Turned on TV and half-watched an old 20/20 that ended up being about tortured women in some creep’s basement. I changed the channel to an Oprah rerun.

I woke Lloyd up. Now it was 4 a.m. He repeated my efforts at tracking down the smoke. As I heard him creaking around downstairs, our 19-year-old, (unemployed and playing Xbox until the wee hours, then sleeping till afternoon) son came out of his room and said, "oh BTW when I opened the fireplace door, a burning log fell out so I pushed it into the hole under the stove.

Hole? Under the stove? Hmmm, sure enough. The hole was there. But where did the hole lead? Detective Lloyd walked all over the house, into the garage, around the outside. No outlet where smoldering embers could roll safely outside into the snow.

Lloyd came back upstairs and poured water into the hole-that-leads-nowhere. (We are crossing our fingers for no water damage.)

We stagger back to bed thinking about how having children is a little like having gremlins. Cute at first glance, but let said offspring be exposed to bright Xbox lights, and give it a midnight snack? Well, watch out!

Where there’s smoke, there’s grown children! And possibly gremlins.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Loving the Hard to Love

I was just talking to a friend who is doing her best to help a child (and doing a great job, by the way) who is one of those that it is both easy and hard to love. You know the one. He can't sit still in his chair at school, and teases other kids without mercy. She's the one who will look you right in the eye and defiantly do something she knows she shouldn't, and then look to see what you'll do with the hint of a smile playing at her lips. It's the boy you reprimand as kindly as you can who looks you straight in the eye and says “I'm gonna kill your guts!” in a way that scares you just a little. Or a fragile redhead who is dirty and smells like urine and cigarettes.

You are their neighbor or their teacher or their babysitter or their aunt. And you want to love them, you know they need the love, but it's so much work and you just don't think you're really making a difference anyway.

You're wrong.

That girl who won't participate in class because she's so shy, and no matter what you try, she ignores you? That was me. Or the boy who sits on the same chair every week and growls at anyone who comes close, often following his mean faces with his mean fists. I knew him. Or how about the boy who clowns around, distracting the other children from every single sentence you try to utter? He might have been one of mine. Or the class that has driven away teacher after teacher after teacher with their abhorrent behavior? And now they are asking you to teach it? I've both been a member of that class, and taught it.

What do you do?

Well, we all know that
you follow the example of the Savior of us all, who loves us fully and deeply including all our thorns in the flesh. The Son of God who spent his time with the “least of these”. The people no one else wanted. The children described above. You invite them into your arms for hugs and they push away from. You welcome them into your homes, even though sometimes you dread it, because they need to see that the world can be different from the one they know. You pick out every good thing they do and praise it, and let them hear other people hear you praise them so they know they have value. You stand up for them, pray for them, advocate for them and learn that some things don't look much like love in return, but is love nonetheless.

Here's my example. I hope you learn from my mistakes, the way I did. I taught a Primary class of 17 nine/ten-year-olds for two years. Only one boy was inactive and everyone knew his situation, feared his mother and had never met his father. He had beautiful dark eyes and chestnut hair. I thought if any one ever wanted to paint Jesus as a nine year old, he'd be the perfect model, except for the scruffiness I guess.

During that time one of my goals was that whenever a child missed class, I would take them a treat or a handout or mail them a card that said I missed them. Many weeks, he was the only child I'd visit because he was the only child that hadn't attended. During my early visits, he was sullen, cautious and flinched at my slightest movement. His mother tolerated my visits, but I worried he might be punished for the interruption. She didn't look happy.

But then one day he started to come to church. And he brought his little brother. (I didn't even know he had one.) He came in a light blue suit, coat and tie, and his grimy gym shoes. The clothes were a couple sizes too big and dingy like they'd come from a thrift store, but he was obviously proud of them. He sat right next to me every Sunday. Sometimes he would participate in class, and other times he would be the constant distraction that was the source of my Sunday afternoon headaches.

But he was coming! That was something. And I kept visiting him every week too, because I thought he might not know that I only visited those who hadn't come the previous time. I wanted him to feel loved. He responded with enthusiasm and love in return. Often he was grubby, his hair wild and uncombed. Sometimes he didn't smell that great. But I came to know he loved me. And he loved learning about the gospel, albeit not always reverently. And if he saw me, say, at the grocery store, he would yell my name and wave his gangly arms until I saw him and smiled. I felt like a celebrity in his world. That's how I knew that he knew I loved him.

Then one Sunday he wasn't there. I tried to visit all week, but no one would answer the door. His mom intimidated me. A lot. So the next couple of weeks I just left a note or mailed a card. Nothing. I asked the other kids. They only knew he was getting in fights in the neighborhood, and that he covered them in spit wads while they played outside.

It was a big class.
His mom scared me.
Their phone was disconnected.
Maybe he was just sick.
I was busy.
All valid excuses, but excuses nonetheless. And I am not proud of them, even though I made them.

In what felt like the space of a breath, a few months had gone by. I was seeing less and less of the family, and feeling less and less confident about my efforts. I saw myself giving up, and I didn't like the way it looked.

Finally I'd had enough of my weak and slothful self and I got in my car and I went to their house and I knocked on the door. It took a minute, but both boys answered. Immediately my eyes went to the chaos of the room in which they stood, and I could hear loud TV and the mother in the back room giving someone a piece of her mind via telephone. The boys ducked their heads, as though ashamed. I was more ashamed of myself than they could ever be of themselves.

“Chris,” I said, trying to figure out what to say. “I've missed you!”

Still his head hung as he studied his bare feet on the barer carpeting. I took a breath and was about to say something else, when he looked up and said “I'm sorry I haven't been coming to church but my shoes got too little and I don't have any to wear.” I can't imagine the courage it took to divulge such a thing. I hugged them both and told them I'd be right back.

Within the hour I had several bags of clothing, including shoes for both boys and that was that. Even their mother became my friend. The boys came every week for that year and the next.

Can you imagine how I felt, being the person that was called to love him, (he who had been thought of as being hard to love) and that he missed out on so much because I didn't bother to find out whether or not he needed shoes?

After that second year, the family moved, and I am not sure whether he stayed active or not. They didn't keep in touch. But I do know, that while he was in my care, he knew he was loved and that life could be much different that the grimy, small one he lived in the tiny trailer he grew up in.

Now the question: What will you and I do differently for that hard-to-love child today? You know the one I mean...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Silly Birds

This evening I am sitting in my studio watching a half dozen or so hummingbirds drinking, or trying to drink, from two feeders with 10 “flowers”. Sometimes they come singly, sometimes as groups. There are two lighter colored birds that will not tolerate the presence of each other or any-bird else. Some perch on the tiny rail of the feeder and drink to their heart's content. Others are skeptical and use the dip-and-flee method, getting only a drop or two at a time, and probably exhausting that fuel in the next attempt, never filled.

Some hummingbirds are totally willing to share, while others guard the source against any other bird. Once in a while I see a bird hovering nearby, trying to sneak in when a competitor is distracted for a few drops, only to be quickly chased away. Sometimes they hover at the window itself, looking in, as if to question from whence cometh the source?

They are unaware that I, their supplier, have an unlimited supply of nectar just on the other side of the window where they flutter their tiny wings, and I don't know how to teach them that there is enough for all. It requires a kind of faith on their part, since they are a species that is survival-motivated for the most part.

Also, there is a good-sized spider, web-building underneath the feeder, oblivious to it all. Or maybe not. The web is large, and deceptively beautiful, and I wonder if hummingbirds can be caught in them. It reminds me of Satan, waiting there to trap them. Once caught he would deny their desire to partake as they struggled against his web...their source of sustenance so close they can see it but would be unable to yet partake. They would need rescuing.

The birds remind me of us...we humans...who are constantly seeking to quench our own thirsts whether it's literally a drink of water, or the Source of Living Water. Some of us drink freely and often, knowing the supply is abundant. Others of us fight for our every drop. Some of us deprive others from our source thinking some day it might dry up and then what? Those, too, are survival-motivated.

Wars have been fought, lives sacrificed over who owns the supply and who is allowed to partake of what...and when. Farmers bicker over irrigation amounts and children will not share their cup. Some share with only their friends, and some share with everyone to the neglect of themselves.

When will we learn there is nectar enough for all? The supply is abundant and everlasting; the Supplier, a God who loves us and delights to bless us. (And one who can protect us from spiders!)

Water...nectar...love. We need...and He fills that need. As much and as often as we ask.

Silly birds. Love is for all!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"When God Fearing Women Get the Blues"

(Thanks Martina McBride!)
Martina had it right. The song is about a woman done wrong. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That girl was done wrong by a cheatin' man, and though I could talk about that as well, I won't.

But yesterday? I was done wrong! Several times by several people! Since specifics of that could have me shot, sued or fired, I'll withhold details, but wrong has been done and we can all relate to that!

It's ironic that my previous post was about living present in the moment and the peace that can be obtained my that method. And every word I said was true. I might have forgotten to mention that it's a hard place to stay put sometimes. And also, sometimes people can be pretty mean-spirited right there in your present moment face.

So what I'm saying is that even those of us who are God-fearing, who have righteous intentions, can be challenged by the opposing forces to see if we'll stand firm, dig in our feet, and not be dragged out of peace and into the past's hurts or the future's worry.

I've spent some time in all three camps (past, future, and present moment) in the last 24 hours, so I'm here to tell you it can happen. And does regularly. Nothing good comes without opposition. You seek to offer service, someone perceives it as damage. You say something you think is a beautiful compliment, someone is hurt by your words. You start agonizing over everything you may have done wrong (even if it's unintentional) and worrying about the outcome of situations with people who may or may not have less righteous intent, just plain ignorance, or even vengeance on their minds. And poof! The present moment is out of sight, out of mind. You have the blues, you God-fearing woman you! Just like I did.

The good news is that, you, like I, can choose to step right back into center. Or you could choose to wallow in the blues a little first. The blues got me for a bit, I'll admit. I'm human, but I'm trying. I felt hurt. I felt powerless. I felt I had been dealt with unfairly. I felt angry. And I learned that even though the hurts occurred in a present moment, they immediately became my past and my fears about their outcome became my future. My attention at that moment was yanked right out of the present moment in which I strive to dwell. It can happen in a split second. And it can last for a split second. Or a couple of hours. Or a day...or two. It can have you spinning off balance before you are even aware. During that dance-with-the-blues time, Martina's words describe the sadness, the hurt, the anger, the fire inside, while you fight the battle to get back to the present.

I, like the girl in Martina's song, felt like taking a few people out, hollered a little, cried some and did absolutely no singing. (Not that I sang before that, anyway, but still.) Then I looked to the resources I have set up to bring myself back to center. I prayed. I rested. I took a long bath with scented oils and meditated. I gave the past (though still stinging) hurts to He who has already suffered for them all and surrendered the future to the God who holds all the power over outcomes, the Higher Powers who have my back. I, with divine help, maneuvered myself back into the present moment.

And even though I walked into a painful reminder first thing this morning? I feel peace. The blues are not permanent, nor should they be. But we all sing a few verses once in a while, and that's okay. It's a journey, huh Martina? She knows. She also sang “Blessed” which is totally about the present moment!
(see link below)


Saturday, July 20, 2013

My thoughts on living fullly in the present moment...

July 20, 2013

For the past 15 years or so I have been reading things that refer to living fully in the present moment. I love Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “A Simple Abundance” and a lot of other self-help writers who helped open me up to that principle. It’s brought me a lot of peace and joy.

I’ve always thought that it meant living more fully, or more meaningfully, instead of having my thoughts scattered and distracted.  I’ve had moments, sometimes even hours where I kind of step back from the experience I’m having and just fully feel the joy of it at a family gathering or just alone in my car with my thoughts, and especially while meditating and praying.

But just recently I have learned it in a new and even more meaningful way.  It has helped me in my efforts to give up codependent and enabling behaviors in the relationships with those I love who struggle with addiction.

It is only in the present moment that we have any control or influence at all. If we are living in the past, beating ourselves up for mistakes we’ve made, things we did or didn’t  do, or even sins, it just tears us down and makes us feel bad about ourselves. It also denies the power of the atonement which has already taken care of the past, as long as we have done our part. The atonement covers not only our sins, but our weaknesses, the things we hadn’t yet learned that we wish we had.

We can’t change the past, so we have no influence or control there. In fact, living in the past controls us and our ability to move forward in our lives. We’re stuck there.

The same is true of living in the future. If we are always living in the future, we’ll only be happy “when an addict is sober” or “when we finally have enough money”.  And if we fill the present moment with what we want in the future we miss the present moment altogether. It’s not that we can’t have hopes and dreams, or remember our loved ones in our prayers.  But that is part of the present moment work. When we worry about what will or won’t happen with a loved one, or try to intercede on their agency for our own desired result, the result is usually ineffective if not damaging. To live in the future is an absence of faith. And with no influence, and no faith, what can we ever hope to accomplish?

When, however, we choose to live fully present in the moment, we have influence. We can choose to pray, express our will as well as our willingness to surrender to God’s will. We can choose well-thought out actions (and spiritual confirmations of those actions) as opposed to reactive actions. It is in the present moment that we experience joy, and connection, and peace. We are not existing in the past or the future when we feel those things. But if our minds are in the past or the future we will indeed miss them.

So, in summary:  to live in the past is to deny the power of the atonement and stop progressing. To live in the future is to deny the power of faith and the plan of a loving Heavenly Father for yourself and your loved ones. To live fully present  in the moment is to seek to be worthy of inspiration, of opportunities to be God’s influence in your loved ones lives. It is there that we choose the next step, which moves us toward our dreams and goals, but only brings us to the present moment of each step that follows. That’s where the power is. Where the hope is. Where the healing is. Where the relationships can grow and thrive. It’s where God resides and we can be right there with Him.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why don't people visit more often?

(With thanks to Kiwords for the idea)

…because I answered the door this morning in a fluttery white summer dress and did not realize that I had pasta sauce on my left bosom and my slip had fallen around my ankles?

...because (although my family believes this only occurs in my mind) I can smell dog urine EVERYWHERE? It’s the three-legged stool logic: I have dogs (that I don’t like), and dogs have accidents, thus dog urine can be smelled. I can smell unpleasant odors from 100 yards even if they ARE sealed in Tupperware and buried six feet under, although why would a person bury something that smelled so bad anyway?  Wait!…I’m starting to see why Lloyd refers to me as his own beloved  little crack puppy.  And oh, look…something shiny…

…because my house is never clean enough even though if I know someone is coming over I am the equivalent of an 8-person cleaning service for days prior? It’s like a little Merry Maids party in my head while I scrub a toilet with one hand and wipe down a counter with the other, while shooing the dogs away with one foot. I can pinball from vacuuming the living room to  Oh! Wait! I must dust that! to The Ensign Magazines need straightening with the one that matches the couches on the top and right back to vacuuming the living room…right after I boil some water with cinnamon so it smells like I’m baking!

…because both my dogs will bite you? Granted one of them is a 15-year-old mini-Daschund with only half her teeth left, and such a big overbite that she’d have to bite you sideways with the two teeth that touch. But the other dog, Elway, is a Shi…Tzu (emphasis on the first syllable), with a Muppet heat and sharp teeth that have punctured skin on several occasions. Both of them will gladly jump all over visitors with either the rancid dog breath of an elderly wiener dog or the frenzied attack dog, Elway, who is a cacophony of barking and growling. Once in a while, Elway will snuggle a visitor like a limp rag doll, but since I never know when that will be, I watch him like a Pit Bull watches raw meat. Hm…Maybe I AM a little crack puppy!

…because, especially in the summer, what with the horses on two sides of us and the deer that bed in what used to be our lawn, our house has more flies than germs (possibly due to  the Merry Maid thing)? I can spray, swat, hang up sticky tape, and bags of sparkling water with pennies in them (it’s  on Facebook, it must be true!) but they just keep on coming. (OK so I haven’t tried the water/penny thing yet. I’m going to! Come on over and check it out!)

…because our little neck of the woods has had three major fires in twice that many years? And did I mention our house is made of wood?

…because Lloyd often wanders the house cracking jokes we’ve all heard 10 too many times, wild-haired and in gym shorts that show his religion about six inches below their hem. And by the way, he knew you were coming, but forgot to shower and change 'cuz he was surfing the net? He’s my big ol’ beloved caffeinated  Baloo the Bear!

…or maybe because I just can’t stop the words tumbling over each other on the way from my brain to my mouth? So a typical greeting (with Elway barking savagely and tucked under my arm while I shoo Olivia, the other dog, away with my left foot) might be: “Hi. Come in. I’m sorry my house smells like dog pee, it’s old and needs a lot of work, and bythewaymydogsbiteandwouldyoulikeacookie?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What if you had your nose pierced and...?

Lloyd and I, like many other best friends (and a few married couples), have some kind of strange conversations on a fairly regular basis.

Take last night. We were watching People's Court and there were a couple of women with their jet black hair dyed bright-cherry-popsicle-red, but only at the bangs and at the bottom  for a couple of inches. They had multiple tattoos, some that showed and some, they said, that didn't. The court case was about an incorrectly drawn tattoo.

Incredibly, we talked about none of that.

We did, however, talk about piercings. We noticed these same women had piercings and we started wondering out loud why people would do that. No offense to those who are piercing-lovers, but those of us ear-lobe-only girls (and their husbands) find the rest of them hard to understand. I mean, there are times when piercings hurt! Like for example, when you get pierced to begin with. Even my own ear lobes throbbed for days! Or when a baby hooks a tightly clasped hooped earring and rips it out. My ear lobes hurt just thinking about it! We cringed when talking about people piercing delicate parts that would definitely be painful, and frankly would probably scratch other delicate parts...and ouch!! Birth control maybe?

I told Lloyd how many women have told me they have them because they are sexy. I really don't see it. I don't mean actually “see”. I haven't SEEN, nor do I want to “see” those kind of "jewelry sites". Not even via Internet, No I do not! I mean I don't really understand how metal through soft tissues equates to erotica.

Also, lip piercings. And kissing. It seems that that would hurt. A lot. In our day, we reminisced, boys and girls dreaded to kiss a person with braces, because of the pain...and also the embarrassment if you both had braces and they got...um...entangled. It could scar a person for life! Same seems true for lip piercings as far as we can decide.

And Lloyd especially did not like nose piercing. First off, EW! The inside part is always in contact with...let's say “mucus”. The outside part always looks like a blemish to those of us without the precise eyesight of our youth. At least until we get up close. Also, I told Lloyd, I have once or twice tried to brush what I thought was glitter off a persons nose until...well...AWKWARD!

Then Lloyd said the thing that made me laugh till I cried. “If my nose was pierced, I'd probably wake up with my nostril hooked to the bedsheets.” Which he followed up by his talking in a nostril-hooked-to-bedsheets accent until I couldn't laugh any harder. I'll just say he's good with accents!

It's hilarious to be us!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The crazy man my kids call "DAD". I call him Andy (sometimes)...

So on Father's Day I had this brilliant idea to write a post about some hilarious situations which my husband...and father of our children...finds himself. Except I didn't write it on Father's Day, so now I'm just going to write it as comedy. Lloyd won't care either way, and besides, it might have just made you jealous he's not your dad!! Or maybe not... It depends on how you feel about 4 am. Phone calls and lagoon showers...

Story #1: So back in 1990-something when we were dating, Lloyd was visiting at my home in Fairview during a wicked snowstorm. Since it was too dangerous to travel, he slept on the couch planning to rise at 4 am. and drive to work at IPP. It still looked pretty bad outside in the early morning dark, but we realized we were up in the mountains basically and the roads between might be okay at lower elevations. So I suggested he call the local sheriff's office and see what they could tell him about road conditions, especially in Nephi Canyon. Here's the phone call:

(phone ringing)

LW: Hi. I was wondering if you could tell me the road conditions between Fairview and Delta?
POP (person on phone): Who is this?
LW: Ummm ...well, I'm Lloyd Westenskow
POP: So whatcha callin' me for?
LW: Well, I didn't know who else to call.
POP: So you just picked the first number you come to, huh?
LW: Who's this?
POP: This is (so-and-so) in Roy, Utah.

Lloyd apologized. Apparently it's easy to mis-dial a prefix in the wee hours of a winter morning.

Story #2: One day, Lloyd was leaving the IPP plant on a very windy day. As he pulled his car keys from his pocket, some paper currency blew out. He started chasing it, but the wind blew it all over the place, and eventually across a large field that was bordered by another road. A truck pulled up, and a man got out and picked up the money. Then Lloyd was angry and thought “That #$*& is going to steal my money!” He was wrong. The man waited for Lloyd to run approximately a quarter mile, then handed him his windblown ONE DOLLAR BILL! Embarrassed, Lloyd walked back to his car, unlocked the door and just before getting in the car, his hat blew off his head and out to the field. Too funny!

Story #3:
I was visiting with some young granddaughters one day. We were discussing boyfriends. I said that grandpa was my boyfriend. They said “He's not your boyfriend, he's your husband.” I said, “And he's my boyfriend.” They said “Who's Andy?" (And-he) LOL!!!

Story #4: We took a large group of our family to Lagoon one year. Our three youngest boys still needed help getting dressed after a few hours in the Lazy River so they, and Lloyd, went to get showered and dressed. It was a Saturday, and Lagoon was packed. (Now keep in mind that Lloyd used to drill in a mine...that knowledge will help explain the subsequent behavior.) Lloyd took off his wet clothes and headed for the shower. The first thing he realized was that every single shower was taken. The second thing he realized is that he was the only person fully naked. That's how miners did it after all. Now here's the funny part: He thought to himself “I need to get out of here. But... no... then I'll feel stupid.” So instead of that “stupid” choice, he goes over to a shower, occupied by a swimsuit clad man, and says “Can I just stick my head in here for a second?” And he does.

He doesn't know where the guy disappeared to, but he got out of their quickly nonetheless. No sense getting the cops involved, you know?

Seriously, if you don't have a dad like him? You should consider adopting some crazy ol' coot!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Real Love is NOT a Big Diamond

The other day I was working a booth recruiting potential employees from the graduating high school’s senior class. As each candidate visited my booth I gave them a quick overview of what my company offered, then gave them a referral card and a lollipop. As the day progressed my presentation got shorter as did their attention spans. As I handed one young woman a card, she grabbed my hand exclaiming that she LOVED my wedding ring. “It’s gorgeous!” she gushed. “And big! Your husband must really love you!” And then she moved on to the next booth.

Oh, honey! I thought. The things you have yet to learn about real love!

First of all, my real wedding ring is a cubic zirconium. And I don’t wear it much because it means the world to me and the prongs are wearing thin. My husband bought it for me the first Christmas after we got married, as we’d used every spare dime we could scrape together to buy out his former wife’s share of the equity in our home. As mature adults, we realized the house meant much much more than a glittering third finger. And really, I’m not a diamond or a name brand kind of girl. I like being able to spend $30-$40 a couple of times a year to sport a new ring I really love. I never have to tire of the style of just one ring. Also, after the movie “Blood Diamond” I don’t have to worry about who or what is sacrificed for my piece of jewelry.

And to those of you who bought into the “This is an investment” sales pitch that I did in my first marriage? Wrong! I ended up getting about a fourth of what it was worth when I sold it for the down-payment on my bright red Chevy Beretta.

Enough about rings. Now let’s get to the down and dirty of real love. Little girl, Love is NOT the size of a ring or the cost. Love doesn’t have a thing to do with money.

I know because I have more than my share of the first, and very little of the second.

The girl was right about one thing though: My husband does love me. Very much. Here are some of the ways I know:

He always drives the rattier car. He drives all summer with no air conditioning so that I can drive the car where A/C works. He once spent every spare hour for a whole summer rebuilding the engine in my car to save us money, when he would much rather have been doing other things. He taught himself how out of a book. Now that’s love!

He always makes me feel like the most valuable thing he has. He spends every spare minute with me, preferring that to other activities. He will go to the mat to do anything I ask of him. If I say I’d like a certain book or CD, he remembers. And someday, months later, I’ll come home from work and that particular item will be on my pillow. He surprises me with flowers the same way. If it’s Valentine’s Day or my birthday or one of two anniversaries: he always remembers. Once he came home from work without telling me, hid the car, left flowers on the porch and rang the doorbell. When I opened it no one was there. I picked up the flowers and he stepped out of hiding to tell me he took the day off just to spend it with me. Another time when money was extra tight, he took a few dollars out of his weekly discretionary income to make payments on some angel figurine bookends. He did that for a whole year just so they’d be a surprise since it’s me that balances the checkbook and I’d have known otherwise.

And he always tells me how beautiful I am.

He does things few other men would do. Like I’m always telling him he has a beautiful singing voice and that someday for a gift I’d like him to sing a song for me. So a year or so later he sent me an email of himself singing a romantic song via a computer file because he was too embarrassed to do it in person. It was beautiful. He wrote me a poem once too, which is pretty brave as I am a writer who reads a lot of it. He did a great job!

When I was hospitalized for a blood clot this spring, he rarely left my side even though he was terrified. When I got nauseous, he got sympathy nausea. He wants me around for a long, long time.

Another way I know is that he loves dogs more than people. He doesn’t care if they pee on the carpet or stink up the bedspread. But he knows I care, and that I don’t like them all that much, and so he will agree to have his beloved pets only on the bed a couple hours a day, and cleans up dog messes like a trooper.

He’s not much for housework but often surprises me by cleaning something because he knows I am feeling overwhelmed by life. He loves all of our children, taking on some pretty big challenges when he took me as a wife. Not once has he been anything but an amazing and patient father.

 He is loyal to a fault, and boy can that man make me laugh. And if anyone tries to hurt me, look out! He is fiercely protective. He really loves me.

So, young almost-an-adult who thinks a big ring means love? I hope you find real love, and that you quickly learn it’s not measured by the carat, but by the caring.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writing Prompt: The Word: leaf

Writing Prompt: The Word: leaf

Ghosts of Baseball Past

The park was little more than a matted, grassy baseball field-- the orphaned stepchild of the brick and manicured grass ball fields that exhausted most of the county’s recreation budget for the year.

It was surrounded by a circle of wild-haired willows, sister trees gathered to watch the ghosts of players past stir the dried leaves as they run, steal and slide around the bases. Their whispers become hisses as the breezes turned to wind, and the once-peaceful sisters, once waving on their favorite sons, become hair-pulling, arm-slapping, leaf-spitting banshees as the gusts ride in on the backs of the autumn storm.

The square clapboard houses that sit as spectators squint their windows against the ruckus – a row of pastel blocks, shabby as the building blocks of a giant’s child now grown and gone. Lawns are root-bound and bare, being begged by sprinklers and aeration to last just a few more years by the third-generation welfare families who now fight over what used to be the bright and shiny neighborhoods of their grandparents.

Lunchtime finds porches littered with smokers who brave the storm to feed their habits while listening to the last remnants of the news through the torn screens that separate them from their garage-sale recliners and moldy kitchens.

Suddenly the winds ebb as quickly as they’d flowed, leaving the willows to contemplate the bare lot they guard, like dry old women wishing their children back into their laps.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Height of Absurdity

This is an excerpt from my current writing Work in Progress which is entitled "High". It describes my experiences with people I love who are addicts ( in this case Bryan, who is on this date unhappy in rehab). *Names have been changed to protect them...

Oct 25-26, 2012 - The Height of Absurdity

In the middle of a personal life that leaves me feeling like a dazed, bruised, and losing prizefighter, I have to move around in the everyday world where everyone else lives and functions. This means I have to set my mangled heart on a shelf somewhere, and make a brave attempt at navigating a regular life, that in comparison to the one I am describing in this book, can seem absurd in itself.

Nevertheless, I am (or at least can be) a strong, capable woman right? So I set this morning’s alarm for 5:00 a.m., leave the house by 6:30 and pick up my companion for the day at a quarter of seven. She is a crazy, delight of a woman who I have hired to help me in a part of my job you couldn’t guess if you tried. Okay, I’ll just tell you and we’ll get the finger-pointing and giggling over with right off the bat. I do drug screening and breath-alcohol testing as part of my job managing a staffing agency. And no, with all that equipment at my fingertips, I never once asked my son to submit to a test. I know. It’s absurd. And it gets worse.

The upside of trying to make it as a normal person today is that my passenger, and roommate for the night, is one of the single most hilarious women on the planet. She can talk faster than any human I have ever known, and regales me with a long string of deliriously, deliciously crazy family members’ stories.

We swap anecdotes until we both have to cross our legs to keep from…well, you know…and that is a trick while I am driving, let me tell you! In what feels like seconds, it’s three-and-a-half hours later and we are at our hotel, unpacked, caffeine-charged, and entering the conference room.

All day long, stories are told that I won’t relate here as they all involve the privacy, and urine, of the not-to-be-named, but the important point is we had a blast! We laughed till we cried, did mock testing on each other in ridiculously bizarre role plays and learned of the many creative excuses for and ways of beating a positive drug test. Enough said. For now.

It’s amazing we can stop laughing long enough to go to sleep, but we do.

The next day is more of the same. At one point, Trixie*, whose research had taught her that a certain Zinc-something in Fixodent could render a drug screen negative, decides to experiment further. She takes a big ol’ swig of the stuff and… (I’ m already laughing so hard that if I wasn’t typing it, you’d never hear this story)…She. Cannot. Swallow. Seriously, the stuff sticks to her teeth, her tongue and will NOT go down her throat. She tries to no avail to talk, and even sticks objects on her tongue while it’s lolling out of her mouth to prove her theory. It takes hours for her to clear her mouth of the stuff. (Aside to reader: next time I attend training with Trixie, I’m wearing Depends!)

When the training is over, we drive home in a fit of hilarity that is at once exhausting and healing. I drop her off just as my phone rings. It’s my daughter, Katie. The second sentence out of her mouth is “How’s Bryan?” It’s like taking an unexpected punch to the gut. I have spent two days laughing, having fun and not thinking, even one time, about Bryan. What is wrong with me? It’s the heighth of absurdity that I can think to try to enjoy myself while my son suffers.

I haven’t even remembered to say a prayer today for him. What if he relapses because I haven’t been at my post? I feel ashamed. Scared. Sorry. Worthless. What kind of mother can do things like this? I stay awake most of the night imaging scenarios Bryan might be finding himself in (and not telling me about because of the no-family-contact boundary currently in place). Like a virtual self-flagellation, I beat myself up in every possible way for every hint of every smile I’ve had today. And for every time I ever yelled at him, or ignored him, or did something I realize now should have been done differently.

I am a mother of a beautiful son, and once again, I have failed him. I know. It’s absurd to hold myself so totally accountable. If I had that much control, I could have made him sober. At the same time, it feels absurd to feel any kind of success as a mother when a child fights this gigantic a Goliath without me. I feel like I’m naked on a stage, all my flaws and flab exposed to the spotlight of an audience pointing accusing fingers at me. I hope they start throwing stones.

And I also hope they don’t.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Everything They Never Expected

June 5, 2013
Everything they never expected...

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life feeling stupid and worthless.”

Yesterday I attended my granddaughter's graduation. I've attended a lot of them in my day, but none so unique and moving. You see, it was an alternative high school. You know, the ones we way too easily stuff chock full of humans we have insensitively labeled as unwed mothers, druggies, credit deficient, stoners, goths...losers, even.

We'd be wrong.

What I learned is that Valley High School is battalion of heroes. It was full of them...all these fish that, no matter how they tried, could never climb that tree of mainstream education.

Their graduation theme was: “Everything we never expected.”

Which, in fact, was true for everyone attending. All of them, at one time or another (or for a long time), never expected this particular group's graduation to be their reality. But here they were, graduates surrounded by loved ones, experiencing what this coming of age ceremony really means.

They were as diverse a group as I've ever seen all in one room together. There were limos parked out front, right alongside beat up sedans on their last leg...or tire, so to speak. There were sassy women all dressed up like a Sunday fashion show with skin-tight dresses straining against their ample girth. Some were wearing wide-brimmed hats calling each other “Miss Thang” and being hurried down the aisle by the menfolk, who book-ended neon shirts and pants with fedoras and white shoes. There were girls with hair the color of blood against their white graduation gowns, and every other color of the rainbow. Most heads had at least one part shaved or dyed, most bodies bore multiple tattoos and piercings. Some were scrawny fragile little victims of bullying, or bulky, tough girls used to being the only one to stand up for themselves. Some were laid back islanders wearing shades and stacks of leis. At least one was chock full of artistic talent no one used to know about. (Yeah, I mean you, Gabby!) All of them smiled, the amazement of reaching this day reflecting the miraculous in their eyes.

Their speeches were not typical, not focused on all the future holds for them, or how they'll change the world. Instead, they talked about the battlefields of their lives, how the world changed them, who was and wasn't there for them, and the paths full of punishment, neglect, indifference, and trauma that led them to today. They spoke with love about the family they had become at VHS, and how their lives were different now because of that. They shared their most vulnerable moments about eating lunch alone in the bathroom, and having nearly two years of clean time. One even had to leave high school to care for her mother, who'd had a severe health issue and found this school that would work with her towards graduation. This motherless girl caring for her mother still found a place to have a high school experience uniquely designed to meet her needs.

I was most impressed by the speech of a girl whose pale face was framed by paler blue hair. She spoke of diversity and what happens when one does not fit in. She was powerful, eloquent and intelligent. She moved me, made me want to be a better person. I later saw her without the graduation gown in booty shorts with lines of cut marks down her thighs. She was at once walking wounded and warrior.

If you are listening, powers that be, this is how quality, compassionate organizations touch the lives of the fish who don't climb trees!! If you give them a place to swim? They will change the world!

-S. Westenskow, grandmother of graduate Gabrielle Ann Jeffery, Class of 2013 

Monday, June 3, 2013

There is always hope...until there isn't...or is there?

June 2, 2013

Last night as I was journaling and making research notes in my current writing WIP, I was very tempted to write the word “hopeless” to describe the way I was feeling. There are a lot of overwhelming things going on in my world right now.

Sometimes I feel like I am responsible for the entire three ring circus of this life I've chosen. Can you spot the woman chasing the spotlight she's supposed to be lit up by? That's me! You see I'm behind the count, and I'm in the wrong costume and a girl just can't dangle from a high wire, perform tricks on horseback and make the elephant wave to the audience all my herself-- and don't even remind me it should all be precisely timed to happen at the exact same second! It's h......... I just can't make myself write the word. I can't. Not quite yet.

Hope is a thing I have loved myself for never losing. I've lost keys, more phones than I can count, and even the same child three times one 4th of July. But hope? It seems I have always been able to find a way to be keep even the most precarious fingertip hold on hope, even during the most impossible journeys up and out and through.

Yet there I was, my pencil poised above my notebook ready to write the word. There's even evidence in the tear-shaped stain (where the word was almost written) that lives on as a smudge on the last line of the last page.

Instead of writing it, I put my pencil down and began to pray. I think I even said, “I don't even know what to pray for, but I know You know...” I prayed that way until I fell asleep.

Then, this morning when my alarm goes off for church, I cringe. I feel discouraged, and tired, and I could fall back asleep so easily. I don't currently have a calling, so I wouldn't really be missed, and yet...I know I need to be there.

Ninety minutes and one bad-hair-day later I sit in Relief Society where a dear sister stands to give her lesson. I already feel the Spirit washing over me. Her reverence invites it, and my need soaks it up like a dry sponge. She says she's been thinking about this lesson on her early morning drives to work and back and one word kept coming back again and again.


(See those tear stains right there? They're mine...but in a good way.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can one post too many times about a snake? Apparently not...

What I Learned About Protecting My Family Against Evil From a Snake

I was working in my writing studio recently. It’s a room in which I have created a sacred space. All the things I love most are in this room. Photos, music, books, art, writing. It’s a place where I invite the Holy Spirit to join me as I pray, study scripture, read, write and visit those close to me.

No one has ever been in this room that I haven’t invited, and that I don’t love and trust completely. It’s a sanctuary and I guard it well.

Or at least I thought I did.

It’s on the second floor of our log cabin house situated at the mouth of a beautiful canyon. It has a large sliding glass door which I often open to hear the rustling of aspens and the songs of birds. Every once in a while, hummingbirds or dragonflies (personal signs for me of the Spirit’s presence) have flown in, stayed a few seconds and then left.

This particular day, I had the door wide open on a beautiful Memorial Day. The screen was broken, and had yet to be replaced, but I thought it was safe. I was enjoying the breeze, the calm spirit and a great book when next to me was a sudden loud crash. I jumped up from the love seat, and looked around but could see nothing. Then I saw one 3’ angel statute tilted and lying on another 4’ angel statue, also leaning awkwardly into a corner. That was strange.

I felt the pump of adrenaline almost as soon as I saw the 4’ snake lolling across the mess of angels it had knocked over. I yelled for my husband and son for help. They came, assessing the situation and determined the snake to be a harmless garden variety. I said I wanted it out. My son said he voted his dad to take care of it. His dad said it would probably crawl out on its own, and in a few minutes, that's exactly what it did while my family stood watch.

That wasn’t good enough for me. I went to the balcony below, to where it slithered after leaving the upper deck. It was winding its way all around the door frame, poking its head at the window over and over again every few inches trying to find a way in. At the same time that I was keeping a keen eye on the snake, a mother robin, with eggs nesting close, was also watching. Every few seconds she would fly at the snake, trying to peck it to protect her young. I admired her bravery and it seems she shared it with me as I went to do battle with the snake.
I kept the door shut until the snake had passed it, then took a broom and flung him back out into the yard from whence he’d come.

I learned a few things from that experience.
  1. Even when I’m careful, evil can enter. I have to be on constant guard.
  2. If I neglect a single one of the many precautions against uninvited danger (like a screen), evil can enter.
  3. The priesthood is the perfect power to call upon when evil threatens and you want it gone.
  4. My will and the priesthood holder’s will are not always the same, but theirs can be trusted.
  5. Sometimes the priesthood will delegate to me so that I can learn courage and strength.
  6. Once admitted, evil will find every way it can to re-enter. I must be vigilant.
  7. We mothers need to stick together in order to keep evil out of our homes.
  8. Evil should be kept as far away as possible.

It's a lesson I want to learn well so it need never be repeated.